Those of you who know me probably know I have a great love of all things gaming and specifically Nintendo, but very few know the full story of why. So I wanted to share a little bit about why Nintendo, in particular, is so special to me. When I was a kid there were always computer games in the house, we had an Atari and my dad was one of the first people I knew who had a proper desktop PC. He was big into computers and was studying a computing degree part-time at university. During the Summer of 1995, I turned 11, which meant come September I’d have to face the daunting reality of going to secondary school. I was dreading the experience, but little did I know something would happen in August, just a week before starting school, that would change my life forever.
I remember my Dad coming to tuck me into bed one night, as usual, he was trying to give me some life advice, I don’t exactly remember what it was, but I do remember giving a smart alec response to him. He chastised me for it but wished me good night and left the room. I felt bad about it but didn’t give it any further thought and went to sleep. I woke up the next morning, having just missed him leaving for work, nothing too unusual about that, it was the school holidays and he still had a job to do. However, it wasn’t long before my mum received a phone call, my dad had been involved in an accident, a car had hit his motorbike and knocked him off. He’d been rushed into hospital with a suspected broken leg and wrist. Mum dropped us off at a friend’s house and rushed off to the hospital to be by his side. Later that day she returned, I instantly knew something was wrong. She looked at us, barely able to talk, all she could manage to say was “Your Dad has died”. It hit like a tonne of bricks, and I was devastated, we all were.
I was never a hugely outgoing child, but the sudden loss of my father destroyed my confidence. Starting a new school suddenly became even harder than it already seemed. Sure, my year group was filled with people I knew from my previous school, but that included the bullies as well as the small group of people I considered friends. I had been placed in a form group separate from almost all my friends, but it included several people who went on to torment me for the entire five years I was at the school.
Looking back, I was deeply unhappy, for probably understandable reasons. But there was one thing that made it all bearable. A few months before Dad had passed away, my parents had bought us a second hand SNES with a handful of games. Whenever things were too much, or I didn’t want to talk to someone, the SNES was always there. Nintendo had created these amazing worlds I could escape to; Hyrule, Zebes, The Mushroom Kingdom and more. For brief moments I didn’t have to think about the reality of having lost a parent or the bullying at school, I was an adventurer, a hero, a bounty hunter. It made everything just a little bit more bearable.
A couple of years later I managed to get myself an N64, and it opened up a whole new world of multiplayer experiences. Mario Kart, Perfect Dark, Super Smash Bros and others allowed me to share these experiences with my small group of friends and helped me socialise in a way I was comfortable with. This was later followed by a GameCube and every other console Nintendo has ever released.
I don’t know what I would have done without that SNES. Maybe I would have found a different hobby, or coped in a different way, but maybe things would have been much worse. I’ll never know for sure, but I do know I would have been a very different person. It helped me through the most difficult time of my life, and for that, I’ll ever be grateful to Nintendo and those amazing worlds they created.
Marc James can be found on Twitter: @mjames_84